Now that Man Of Steel has proved itself a massive box office hit, Warner Bros might just be about to press ahead with its long-planned Justice League project. It's little secret that that the studio has tried several times to get Justice League moving in one form or another, but with Warner Bros now buoyed by the rejuvenation of big screen Superman, the odds of it happening have considerably shortened. That's what a $100m+ opening weekend at the US box office does for you.
So what do we actually know about this current attempt to get Justice League going? Here are the clues thus far...
We'll start with something so basic, so assumed, that nobody even asks the question. Justice League will feature Superman and Batman, the two biggest box office draws in the DC library. It's long been a problem for DC that it doesn't have any character anywhere close to the popularity of those two, and unlike Marvel, it's found it nigh-on impossible to introduce fresh characters through big blockbusters. Ask any Warner Bros accountant, and they'll tell you that Green Lantern still stings.
The inclusion of Superman and Batman does present a problem of sorts for Warner Bros. Unlike Marvel, it's never had two of its comic book franchises on fire at the same time. So, whilst Marvel went into The Avengers with Iron Man, Captain America and Thor all established firmly at the box office at the right moment, Warner Bros now has an active Superman franchise, and a recently retired Batman one. To get the latter up and running, there's got to be a risky reboot of the character done there. Which leads us to...
David S Goyer confirmed to us last week that it'll be a different Bruce Wayne in the world of Man Of Steel and Justice League. That he does exist in that world, but not in the shape of Christian Bale.
Warner Bros' presumed route is that it'll reintroduce Batman in a less risky way, as part of a Justice League ensemble, before pressing ahead with a full reboot. That's not definitely the case though: it may yet opt for the reboot first, but it it gets that wrong, then Justice League may be back to square one. One thing is certain: rebooting Batman for the big screen is arguably the biggest challenge facing DC and Warner Bros right now. Bigger even than the Justice League project itself.
Now that Man Of Steel has hit cinemas with the biggest June opening of all time in the US, Warner Bros can breathe out. And it puts director Zack Snyder and writer David S Goyer in a position of strength.
Again, Goyer told us that he and Snyder had discussed Justice League while making Man Of Steel. In his words, "it would be disingenuous to say that Zack and I haven't had various conversations on set, around 'what if' and 'moving forward'", when we specifically asked him about Justice League.
He added that "it's all going to depend on the next few weeks", indicating that the box office returns for Man Of Steel would determine where Warner Bros went next, and who it involved. Barring a massive collapse in box office takings over the next week, it now firmly seems as though Justice League is Snyder's and Goyer's project, should they want it.
Not much of a surprise this, but it's now been fully confirmed. Will Beall had been penning a screenplay for Justice League, but that script has now been fully abandoned. As Goyer, again, told us, "it would be a blank slate" were he to take on the project, as is widely expected.
This came from an interview earlier in the summer. Back in April, Warner Bros president Jeff Robinov, who bet heavily on Zack Snyder for the Superman reboot, told Entertainment Weekly that "we’ll announce something in the next several weeks that will hopefully position the DC characters and the movies we’re going to be making".
Assuming that he was hedging his bets until Man Of Steel was released (and notwithstanding rumours about just how cemented Jeff Robinov is in his job at Warner Bros), it would be likely that those announcements are coming very soon now. As such, the likely bets are that a formal Justice League and Man Of Steel 2 announcement is coming. But might this also be the moment where we get the first hints of the next standalone DC movie too? Surely The Flash in particular and Wonder Woman have to be somewhere near the front of the queue...
Going through Man Of Steel, there are some clues for the eagle-eyed that may point towards what Zack Snyder and David S Goyer have planned for Justice League. The LexCorp vans at the least suggest that Lex Luthor is arriving for Man Of Steel 2, but we wouldn't rule him out of being a Justice League foe either. There was also, we're told, a very brief mention of Wayne Enterprises in Man Of Steel (in the form of a satellite). Furthermore, S.T.A.R. Labs gets a mention, which suggests a link to Cyborg appearing in the Justice League ensemble.
If we go with the idea that David S Goyer is to get the job of penning Justice League, even if he secretly started writing it months ago, there's little chance of turning round the movie Warner Bros needs by the originally planned 2015 release date. After all, Warner Bros has to first and foremost decide when it wants Man Of Steel 2, which may prove to be top priority. If it does order that first, then Goyer and Snyder are the incumbents there, and likely to make that first. That would push Justice League back even further.
But even if it wants Justice League first, this is a major, major challenge for the studio. It would need to be shooting the movie at the start of 2014 to get a summer 2015 release, and with only Henry Cavill known of the cast, and with no finished screenplay that we know of, that's a tough ask. It'd be a tough ask if they started today. To leave it much longer would be damn near impossible, given the scale of what Warner Bros would want to turn around.
Our guess is that the quickest you'll see a Justice League movie now will be 2016.
We should also note that there are two other DC projects in the works right now (that we know of) that may or may not end up having a Justice League link. Nikolaj Arcel is making Fables for Warner Bros, and Guillermo del Toro is circling Justice League Dark. Our feeling at the moment is that these are independent projects, but don't be surprised if there's a crossover with at least one of them.
Inevitably, there's not much more than that known about Justice League at the moment. But there is a sense that it's moved a step closer this past weekend. As we hear more, we'll keep you posted.